Ditch Managment: Stopping Pollution Before it Reaches Eastern Shore Rivers and Streams
It could have been the donuts. Or maybe because it was a Friday.
Whatever the reason, when representatives from every Eastern Shore county government came together earlier this year, the energy in the room was high.
The topic? Slowing and filtering pollution from the region's headwater streams: roadside ditches.
Okay, maybe it’s a subject that doesn’t inspire everybody. But after hearing that simple changes in the management of roadside ditches can efficiently help meet goals for water quality by treating pollution near its source, local officials wanted to know more.
Launched by the Talbot County Department of Public Works, the gathering kicked off a 12-month process during which Shore localities will collaborate to produce an online manual that standardizes new procedures for roadside ditch management. Ditches convey as much as 20 percent of the runoff from the land area around them, carrying sediments, nutrients, and bacteria that threaten nearby rivers and streams. Scientists and practitioners are finding that by regrading and installing native plants in the ditches, water can be slowed and filtered as it moves and downstream water quality can improve.
EPA is funding the effort, which is expected to provide Shore local governments a one-stop-shop for high quality, regionally relevant information on ditch management best practices. Meanwhile, EPA is also working to define, credit, and verify the technique so that it can be formalized under the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint as a scientifically approved Bay restoration tool.
The opportunity began gaining traction on the Shore some years ago when CBF partnered with The Nature Conservancy to map priority retrofit locations in Talbot County. Now with generous funding from the Sheldon and Audrey Katz Foundation, CBF is producing similar maps for the entire Eastern Shore. As the management manual and EPA crediting procedures come on line, the Shore should soon be well prepared to accelerate efforts to control pollution.
That is something to get excited about.
Eastern Shore of Maryland Director
Chesapeake Bay Foundation